Using Literature Circles for The River (by Gary Paulsen)
The activities that I will be discussing would fit well as literature circle activities during the first half of the novel.
In our class, Cathy had assigned the roles of "The Highlighter", "The Relator", and "The Question Maker". These are great roles to use for any novel. I thought that I would try to come up with different roles that can be used for literature circles.
The role of "In a Character's Shoes" could be given to students to relate themselves to one of the characters. For The River, you might want to narrow this down even further and ask them specifically to put themselves into Brian's shoes and think about what they would have brought along on their journey for survival and why. By putting themselves into the shoes of others, students can learn to reflect on novels through different perspectives.
The role of "Artist" could be given to students to draw an illustration of a specific scene that was meaningful for them. I find this to be an effective role for The River because emotions and pain play a big role in this book. It would be interesting to see how different students can illustrate the hardships that Brian and Derek faced in a drawing. Again, this is another method for students to relate to the book in a way that they otherwise may not have the opportunity to do so.
The role of "Word Detective" could be given to students to find words in the book that they are unfamiliar with or that they find interesting. It would be these students' responsibility to find these words in the dictionary and explain the meaning of these words within their groups. For The River, some students may not even know what a hatchet is so this could be one word that you can help them to understand by allowing them the opportunity to look it up in the dictionary. You could have the students create "The River Word Detective Book" where students can write definions of new words that they have learned. This is an adaptation of the Word Wall concept.